Interrogation—Eryk Pruitt/ Noir at the Bar, Bouchercon

NOIR BAR RALEIGHWho: Eryk Pruitt

What: A screenwriter, author and filmmaker living with his wife Lana and cat Busey.  His short films FOODIE and LIYANA, ON COMMAND have won several awards at film festivals across the U.S.  His fiction appears in The Avalon Literary Review, Pulp Modern, Thuglit and Zymbol, to name a few. In 2015, he was a finalist for the Derringer Award for his short story “Knockout.” His novels, DIRTBAGS and HASHTAG, are available in e-book and paperback. He is also the founder of Noir at the Bar, Durham, and organized Noir at the Bar,  Raleigh Bouchercon.

Where: Durham, N.C.

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

How did you first find out about Noir at the Bar? Did you attend Noir at the Bar events in other cities before you launched the one in Durham? 

I kept stumbling upon them across the internet and wanted to attend one, possibly get the stones to read at one after a while. I traced them back to Jed Ayres and asked him what Durham had to do to get one, so I could experience it. He said “You got to start one yourself.” He helped me find authors who would drive to Durham and it was a blast. We had great readers and afterward, I had a night on the town with Grant Jerkins, Peter Farris and Charles Dodd White, which could not be beat. The next one we did featured eight authors from the immediate area. We had another. I’ve read in Baltimore and at Shade in New York City. It was my first time up there and man, it was a total hoot. I’ve never met nicer people.

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How would you explain Noir at the Bar to somebody who is new to these events? 

I wouldn’t. I would direct them to Jen Conley’s article. I think the only word I’d add is “Lollapalooza.”

Tell me about your Noir at the Bar events in Durham? What’s the biggest challenge of running Noir at the Bar?

In Durham, I’ve been supported by a team of professionals that make sure these things go off without a hitch. Piper Kessler of KV Studios handles our sound and we’ve been emceed by the hilarious actress Tracey Coppedge.  The two recent posters were photographed by Alex Maness and Lana Pierce. Mike Bourquin at 106 Main keeps everybody good and lubricated so when time comes for the show to start, all I have to do is show up and read. No challenges at all, thanks to those kids.

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Has your Noir at the Bar experience taught you anything about the difference between a good reading and a bad reading? What advice do you have for new readers?

I think it’s important to keep the audience in mind. When we write books and short stories, our audience is someone tucked in and alone, already aware of what they are in for. A public reading, especially one in a bar, is different. It’s like you have to already have your socks and shoes on and waiting by the door from the get-go. I think you have to go for the laughs or the gasps or the folks shielding their eyes or covering their ears. I think it’s best to regard it as a performance, rather than a reading. This might mean changing up what you wrote, but in the end, the audience will thank you for it.

The old-timers sing songs in the hills about Johnny Shaw. Each time I’ve participated in one of these things, there’s always someone who says “You’re an idiot if you don’t schedule Johnny Shaw last.” Or, more appropriately, I was told by Jed Ayres to pick someone I really don’t like and make them follow Johnny Shaw (I like everyone). The dude comes with a nasty reputation and my nipples have hardened with anticipation. 

 

As a reader, do you like to read excerpts from your novels, short stories or do you create pieces specifically for readings?

It depends on what I feel like is most entertaining. I read from HASHTAG after it came out, but I cut things out that were plot dependent and simply left in the stuff that might fetch a laugh from the audience. I recently read a short story about a homeless Texan in Ireland involved in an illegal knackerfighting ring, and that was originally a ten thousand word short story. I took my favorite 2000 of them and tried it out. I boiled the story down to the parts I thought were funny and prayed like a motherfucker that the audience would agree with me.

Create an “official cocktail” for Noir at the Bar, Raleigh Bouchercon.

Folks will hate it, but my official cocktail would be:

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But I imagine someone will only hipster it up and start adding basil smashed honey oil extracted from urban rooftop honeybees, so what’s the point anymore? What’s the point?

You just started a new radio show and podcast call “The Crime Scene”. How did that idea come about?

My buddy Sam Blinn has his fingers in a lot of pots. One of them is a radio hour in Carrboro-Chapel Hill in which he discusses sci-fi and fantasy books. He’s also a brilliant resource for writers local to the North Carolina Triangle (Durham-Chapel Hill-Raleigh) region. He once had me on as a guest. In order to free up some time for his many other projects, he asked if I’d be willing to take over an hour a month for him and host a series dedicated to crime fiction.

The Crime SceneMonday, Sept. 28th, but we will transition to the second Monday of the month after that. The plan is to have one in-studio guest and a call-out guest. I’d like to discuss wider topics than just crime fiction. While I would like it to be a great place to discover a new author and new books, I also would like it to be a platform to discuss larger issues that affect our work. For instance, in honor of the arrival of Bouchercon attendees from around the world, I will speak with David Terrenoire and Jedidiah Ayres on our first issue about “The South.” Eventually, I’d like to become technically savvy enough to allow for call-ins.

Also, starting October 12th, the show will broadcast on the second Monday of every month. At 10am EST on Monday, October 12th, my in-studio guest will be J. David Osborne and the topic will be “Religion.” That should be a doozy.

HashtagCover350What are your publishing plans for the rest of 2015 and 2016?

I am shopping my short story collection. It’s called LUFKIN. It features new and published stories about characters in, around, and from the East Texas corner of the planet. My short film “The HooDoo of Sweet Mama Rosa,” based on a short story, is finally finished and I’m submitting it to film festivals. I really, really hope people like them. I also am currently working like a bastard at a novel.

Find Eryk Pruitt: WebsiteFacebook, Twitter

Previous Interrogations:

S.W. Lauden’s short fiction has been accepted for publication by Out of the Gutter, Criminal Element, Dark Corners, Dead Guns Magazine, Akashic Books, WeirdBook, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and Crimespree Magazine. His debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, will be published by Rare Bird Books in October 2015. His novella, CROSSWISE, will be published by Down & Out Books in 2016.

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